The Great Courses

His Name Was Alex

The Thinking Atheist
Dec 7, 2011 at 4:08 PM
5 years ago


Alex Nunn.  He loved computers.  He loved cars.  He is survived by his parents, two brothers and a sister.

I’m often struck by the sterility of newspaper obituaries…the clumsy consolidation of a vibrant, complex and nuanced life into a tiny text box with a single photograph.  This is the deceased.  He was born.  He went to school.  He worked.  He lived.  He died.  Funeral services to follow.

I didn’t know Alex Nunn personally.  His name popped up occasionally on The Thinking Atheist Facebook page as he’d post about this issue or that.  A vocal atheist from a small Kentucky community of Baptists and Catholics, no doubt Alex used the page like so many others have - as an outlet, a haven, a friendly forum...a way to connect with other non-believers.  With the volume of traffic on TTA, few probably noticed when Alex’s posts simply stopped.

On the morning of November 4th, 2011, Alexander Robert Nunn was behind the wheel of his highly-modified Dodge Neon SRT-4 when he apparently lost control of the vehicle.  The car slid off of the left shoulder of Route 69, flipped and collided with several trees.  The crash was fatal.

I became aware of Alex’s death by a recent email from his family.  His mother, Laine, wrote frankly about the loss of her son:  “They tell me that it was over quickly for him, but a mother wonders.”

Born December 19th, 1981, Alex grew up in a close-knit family that managed to remain so despite his overt rejection of the supernatural.   The rest of the family believed in a Higher Power, but they eschewed organized religion long ago and, to their credit, supported Alex’s decision to be his own man.

Alex Nunn was an entrepreneur, parlaying his love for computers into a self-made career in communications and game design.  He was an avid gamer, and upon news of his death, Pardus held an online virtual memorial which lasted for two days and joined 500 people worldwide. 

The actual funeral service included the reading of a debate Alex had once had with a religious aunt on the subject of atheism.  At this ceremony, his lack of belief wasn’t swept under the rug or apologized for.  Atheism was part of Alex’s identity, and while there were a few prayers spoken to comfort the faithful, Alex Nunn's personal stamp of irreverent humor capped the service in the closing song from the (sacrilegious?) Monty Python film, “Life of Brian:”

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin - give the audience a grin
Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow.

Many argue that, for the non-believer, existence is meaningless and void.  They say that we cannot make the most of this physical life because we have no afterlife.  But Alex Nunn is yet another reminder that a life lived with enthusiasm, with passion, with conviction, with laughter is something to be cherished.

His story may never be adequately portrayed within the limits of an ink-and-paper newspaper column (or this blog), but Alex’s story lives on in the friends and family he leaves behind and serves as a reminder to the rest of us of how precious every moment is. 

In our own lives, if there are any words left unsaid, any wounds unhealed or any goals unreached, the events of November 4th, 2011 compel us not to leave unresolved any opportunity which might vanish tomorrow.  We are here on this earth for but a moment.  We are the bat of an eye.  We are temporary.  And any word spoken, any song sung, any emotion felt, any idea entertained, any decision made, any action taken may very well be our last.

Alex Nunn was 29.  To his family, our deepest condolences and highest hopes that they find joy in the memories he leaves behind.

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